Roster Update: To increase organizational catching depth, the Indians signed George Kottaras today. Kottaras was the Royals back-up catcher in 2013 and batted .180/.349/.370 in 46 games. He will report to AAA Columbus, but could be a Major League option if Carlos Santana is not able to completely back-up Yan Gomes in addition to his regular duties.
Player of the Game
Justin Masterson may not have had the strike out numbers of Sonny Gray, but he had vastly greater control and thus was able to stick around for an extra inning. In his 2014 debut, Masterson went seven shut out innings and struck out four while allowing just three hits. He was pulled despite throwing just 92 pitches and never getting into real trouble as Terry Francona wanted to match-up in the eighth inning. His final POG score was 6.99.
While it didn’t add up to any runs, the Indians made Sonny Gray work in his first inning as the Athletics ace. Nyjer Morgan worked a four pitch walk to start the Tribe’s season and Nick Swisher followed with one of his own. The Indians didn’t get any other base runners, but forced Gray to throw 29 pitches in the opening frame. This ultimately lead to an early exit for Gray who throw over 100 pitches in six innings.
In addition to Morgan being the first batter and base runner for the Tribe in 2014 he also had the first RBI in the top of the ninth. Asdrubal Cabrera had the first hit (an infield single) and run scored and Michael Brantley, the first extra base hit. Brantley actually had the first two with doubles in the fourth and sixth. Every batter reached base safely tonight with all but two reaching via a hit, ensuring they will not go 0 for the season.
Things got iffy once Masterson left, but the bullpen was able to pull through. The biggest risk of the night came with Cody Allen pitching in the eighth with two on and one out. Josh Donaldson hit a ball 400 feet to straight center and it hit off the top of the wall, just inches from being a home run. Daric Barton was on second and attempted to tag up, keeping him from scoring and holding Donaldson to one of the longest singles in history.
Gray was essentially unhittable tonight, despite the fact that he wasn’t quite as on target as he may have wanted to be. He kept his pitches down most of the night and preferred to throw it out of the strike zone rather than get too much of the plate. Because of this, the Indians didn’t have a ball get past the infield until the fourth inning and even that was a double down the first base line that hit the ground before getting past the bag. When he got behind in the count he was still dangerous as he never gave up. This lead to seven strike outs in just six innings and eight runners stranded on base (in addition to two Indians being tagged out down the third base line.
The Indians had their first introduction to the new replay system and the new rules regarding plate blocking and things didn’t go as well as they could have. Francona convinced home plate umpire, Mark Winters, to review if John Jaso blocked the plate when Michael Brantley tried to score on a ball hit back to the pitcher. While it appeared Jaso stood in the baseline long before he caught the ball, the call was upheld and Brantley was called out. Brantley was forced to slide, rather than plow into Jaso, because of the new rule, yet Jaso wasn’t punished for staying in the runners path. If umpires continue to call plays like this, the new rules will greatly benefit the catcher.
Final Score: Cleveland Indians 2 – Oakland Athletics 0
Circling the Central
The rest of the division played each other as the Royals went to Detroit and the Twins played Chicago. The Tigers and new short stop Alex Gonzalez had a walk-off win in their opener against Greg Holland. A few hours later, Alejandro De Aza hit two home runs to help the White Sox and Chris Sale beat the Twins 5-3.
Up Next: Another bout with the Elephants tomorrow at 10:05 pm EDT. Corey Kluber will pitch against former Indian Scott Kazmir.